Every person has hard-to-shop-for people on his holiday gift list. Whether it’s a picky eater, an impulse shopper, or simply someone with very refined tastes, finding a gift can feel like an obligation, not a warm show of generosity.

This is hardest, perhaps, with people who seem to have everything — especially when it comes to knowledge. Someone who’s an expert in his industry seems to have heard and seen it all, making it hard to find something that seems both relevant and fresh. And if grizzled Uncle George, jaded expert on all things farming, cuts you off every time you try to reference your vegetable garden, you may be intimidated into just not talking at all.

The solution? A book. People who have gotten the third-party stamp of approval as experts in their industries are hard to ignore. They may have unorthodox methods or outlandish approaches, but they can’t be dismissed — they’ve had enough success to be afforded a byline, and that’s hard for any curmudgeonly Uncle George to overlook.

Here are a few titles to consider for the experts you know in a variety of industries:


  • Localmotion” by Alex Barseghian: As technology opens up the global marketplace, we’re seeing brands that are focused on individual needs and community-oriented thinking fueling greater success. This book offers a guide to “the anti-Amazons” of the world, highlighting how brands can succeed today while operating on a smaller scale.
  • Dying for a Paycheck: How Modern Management Harms Employee Health and Company Performance–and What We Can Do About It” by Jeffrey Pfeffer: Pfeffer, a professor, explores how 24/7 work and stress not only make us less productive, but also shorten people’s lives. He explains how offices themselves are contributing to problems like addiction and depression and why leaders have to go beyond wellness programs and straight into putting people first.
  • Becoming” by Michelle Obama: If anyone can offer insights into building one’s leadership skills, it’s a former First Lady who did it on a world stage. Traveling from Obama’s childhood in South Chicago all the way to her years in the White House, this book explores the platform, vision, and vulnerability that surround a very public life.


  • Moving From Models to Mindsets” by John Reid: Salespeople spend too much time learning tactics. Instead, they should focus on creating the right mindset, enabling the right actions to come naturally. This book serves as a guide to understanding the right mindset to find success in each phase of the sales cycle, helping salespeople become more critical thinkers who are less likely to rely on a script.
  • Frenemies: The Epic Disruption of the Ad Business (and Everything Else)” by Ken Auletta​: Acknowledging that people hate advertising as much as they’re owned by it, this book discusses the disruption of the ad industry and how it influenced the other industries touching it. Highlighting how very different players in the same industry — in-house agencies, corporations, and consumers — hurt and help each other, this is a captivating exploration of an industry’s upheaval.


  • The Game Changing Attorney by Michael Mogill: A complete guide to marketing for lawyers, this book helps attorneys master a necessary evil in order to grow their firms. Based on nontraditional thinking, this guide helps attorneys reframe their approach to marketing and treat it as another method of communication — something they’re much more comfortable with.


  • Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death, and Brain Surgery” by Henry Marsh: As its title suggests, this book gives readers a look into the mind of a brain surgeon. Fellow surgeons and other medical practitioners alike will find value in hearing how Marsh views his patients, his work, and the shroud of secrecy that medicine has proudly provided brain surgeons.
  • The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure” by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt: Lukianoff and Haidt explore how college campuses have changed over the past few years, reflecting a culture that’s anxious, depressed, and safety-oriented. From social media’s influence to helicopter parenting, the book discusses how recent trends have not only changed the tenor of the conversations on college campuses but also hampered kids’ confidence.


  • The Drunken Botanist” by Amy Stewart: Growing plants that feed people is as complicated — and dangerous — as brain surgery, as Stewart shows here. Covering everything from herbs to fungus and poisonous plants to fermented fruits, this book explores the science, as well as the usefulness, underscoring all sorts of horticultural finds. The “drunken” part comes in the form of 50 drink recipes, making this book the gift that keeps on giving.

Putting off shopping for the hard-to-gift people on your list won’t make the search any easier. Rather than rely on your own wits and knowledge of their industry, turn to other (published) experts for help. If your recipient disagrees with what they have to say, it’s no skin off your back — and more fodder for the holiday dinner table.

Brad Anderson

Editor In Chief at ReadWrite

Brad is the editor overseeing contributed content at ReadWrite.com. He previously worked as an editor at PayPal and Crunchbase. You can reach him at brad at readwrite.com.